• July 15, 2019

ECISD looking at more student growth, overcrowded campuses - Odessa American: ECISD

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ECISD looking at more student growth, overcrowded campuses

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Posted: Monday, July 8, 2019 4:00 am

An infusion of growth, particularly at the middle and high school levels, is coming over the next 10 years for Ector County Independent School District, a recent demographic study by Davis Demographics shows.

The study had a 1 percent variance.

In terms of active or planned residential development, projections are that there will be 2,205 residential units planned in the Buice Elementary attendance zone and 980 in the Barbara Jordan attendance zone. Three-hundred and one units are projected in the Ross attendance zone.

From 2018 when the district had about 33,000 students that number is expected to rise to 35,225 by 2024 and 35,709 by 2028. In prekindergarten to fifth-grade campuses, the population looks fairly steady going from 17,206 in 2019 to 17,560 in 2028.

In 2018, middle school population was 7,321. The peak population is expected to be 8,654 by 2026 with a decline to 8,186 by 2028.

In the high schools by 2028, the population for grades nine through will grow to 9,963. In 2019, it was 8,458. In 10 years, Permian will grow by 956 students and Odessa High School by 494.

Board President Donna Smith said the study confirmed what the previous demographic study showed, which is that ECISD is getting more students and the new schools that were built from the 2012 bond are already overcrowded.

“The high school growth, I thought that was concerning,” Smith said.

Asked if another bond is inevitable, Smith said it’s a hard issue to ignore.

“If we really want good schools in our town, if we really want our kids to be well educated and well positioned to be functioning and productive members of the community we can’t short change them while they’re in school then expect them to be able to contribute to our town,” Smith said.

“I think we need to have hard conversations about it at the very least, particularly on the secondary level,” she added. “Not only are the two high schools operating over capacity, but the study showed four of the six middle schools are also operating over capacity.”

The elementary level is predicted to grow by about a 3 percent growth by 2028, she said.

Smith said the district is trying to be methodical and get stakeholders involved in planning for the next 10 years because it affects everyone.

She noted that with a new superintendent, Scott Muri, coming on board, it’s hard to be definite about what next steps are going to be.

“We’ve got to keep in mind we’re bringing in a new superintendent. I think all of us are excited he’s coming. I’m expecting he will have thoughts on the issue that we need to pay attention to,” Smith said.

She added that Interim Superintendent Jim Nelson and Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Howard have been working with Muri, so he’s “pretty much up to speed on what’s being done.”

Smith said his time getting up to speed should be quick as a result.

Delma Abalos, board vice president, said it goes without saying that more schools are needed and there may have to be some boundary changes.

“We’re going to need more room in high school. As you know we’re landlocked at both high schools. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but we’ve got to do something. It’s not fair to those students,” Abalos said.

Chief Operations Officer Patrick Young said Davis Demographics looked at ECISD’s student data, future residential developments and birth rates.

“I think No. 1, it’s going to be used for planning. How will we make adjustments based on this data that we’ve received? I think one of the things it does is allow us to recognize is where our areas of high growth are. It’s very apparent that that’s out west of town and in the north and northeast of town,” Young said. “So some of the things that could possibly be something that we could look at as a short-term solution would be to maybe look at some minor boundary changes and then obviously in the long-term solutions would be new buildings.”

Young said it’s been brought up with leadership that maybe the district should look at three to five elementary schools. Davis Demographics mentioned possibly five.

“Can we make it with three? That’s something that we need to visit with the community about. We are in the process of going through our strategic planning right now, which I think is very important,” Young said.

Input is being received from the community, district staff, human resources, finance and public information, among other departments.

“We’re looking at putting together a strategic plan for the district, then communicating out what our needs are to the community after this strategic plan is complete. Then we’ll have the conversation about what the community wants for the future of ECISD. And I think that one of the things we need to take a hard look at is dealing with the overcrowding all across the board from elementary to high school,” Young said.

Young added that the district is out of space at the Permian and Odessa high schools. Portables are being used and he said one possibility is slight boundary changes.

“We’re moving three portables to OHS this summer and we’re moving two more to Permian. I’m counting a double wide as two,” Young said.

That will bring OHS up to 14 classrooms.

“Some of those portables are for special ed and they’re not utilized as a classroom per se, but most of them are,” Young said.

He added that Permian will have 16 portables.

“That’s how we’re dealing with this overcrowding at those high schools currently. Due to their staffing allotment, we’ve got to have room to put them,” Young said.

There also are many portables at the middle schools.

“It just kind of depends on their staffing. Crockett’s going to pick up two; Wilson & Young is picking up two. Nimitz is picking up six classrooms, so three double wides. Then Bonham is picking up one, so (we’re) moving a lot of our portables from some of the elementariness that are unused right now to these areas where we’re seeing some overcrowding. That’s mainly at the high schools and middle schools,” Young said.

The growth in some of the attendance areas is not only houses but apartments. Something that Davis Demographics found was that the apartments don’t seem to have as many students.

“You’re seeing a lot of multiple adults that are maybe coming in and working during the week and maybe their families are back home somewhere. So we’re just not seeing as many students with apartment addresses.

Another thing they pointed out, because they do map out your last four years of PEIMS data and take a look at that. With the exception of 2016, was the only year where (there was) a reported a decline. In looking at that decline, was only about 50 students from 2015-16.

Then from 2017 and 2018 we’ve shown significant growth. We saw about 800 students from 2016 to 2017 and then another 978 from 2017 to 2018,” Young said.

PEIMS stands for Public Education Information Management System.

Young said what can be done about school overcrowding is one of the immediate conversations that will come up once Muri is officially on board.

“That just happens when you have communities that grow. We addressed it in the 2012 bond with three new elementaries and additions to our high schools,” Young said.

With the new technology for oil drilling, Young said from what he’s heard, the community will continue to grow because oil companies can make money, even with a lower price per barrel of oil.

The district is working with Permian Strategic Partnership, a coalition of energy companies in the Permian Basin, on the housing crunch.

The district also partnered with Weidner Apartment Homes to provide financial assistance in securing affordable housing.

Weidner has committed to provide a reduction of 10 percent off current market values when calculating participating employee rental agreements.

Young said Midland is doing the same thing with the same company.

“This partnership, I think it’s going to be a good thing. I think it will really help our teachers in the long run. This is a first venture, so how many units will be included in that we’ll see what the demand is. It could be 100; it could be … upward of 150 units,” Young said.

ECISD conducted a survey of its staff in May and had 109 respondents, 84 of which were teachers. Young said they did include all staff, but officials were focused on teachers and nurses and librarians.

He added that the district also needs to look at support staff.

“If they’re having a hardship, then maybe we could help them as well,” Young said.

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